With J.T. Realmuto banged up and Andrew Knapp on the COVID-19 list, Rafael Marchan has the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his worth to the Phillies.
The road to the Major Leagues takes different forms for each athlete who attempts to traverse it. When examining the journey of Rafael Marchan, he has progressed steadily through the Phillies’ minor league system since signing on as a 17-year old in 2016.
Unfortunately for him, the Phillies signed J.T. Realmuto to a five-year deal back in January. While clearly a good move for the Phillies as an organization, the move essentially stop-gapped Marchan from earning the starting catcher job any time soon.
And so he waited. Through August 1st, Marchan appeared in 10 games with the Phillies, mostly serving as an extra catcher when either J.T. Realmuto or Andrew Knapp were injured.
Injuries and Big Rona
When Andrew Knapp, alongside Zach Eflin and Luke Williams, were placed on the COVID-19 list with breakthrough cases on Friday, it appeared to be just another time for Marchan to serve as an extra catcher for the Phillies.
This was until J.T. Realmuto began to show some chinks in his armor. “The Best Catcher in Baseball” is having a slightly down year offensively with his OPS dropping by 40 points to a strong .800. In his last 15 games, he has only been hitting .220 with a .719 OPS.
Contributing to the down year for Realmuto, however, is the pure amount of stress on his body this season. Realmuto has taken foul balls to the mask and has suffered injuries to his thumb, hand, and right shoulder.
Marchan was given the start on Saturday for the Phillies with hopes to give Realmuto’s shoulder a break. Continuing that train of thought, Realmuto started at first base on Sunday in place of the injured Rhys Hoskins. To add injury to injury, Realmuto ended up rolling his ankle in the fifth inning on Sunday.
With Realmuto absent from the lineup on Monday, Marchan started again on Monday night in Washington. All of a sudden, the 22-year old started his third consecutive game for the Phillies.
How Has Marchan Been Doing?
It’s not every day you see a catcher hit a triple. Rafael Marchan managed to hit one on Sunday night for the Phillies, later scoring on a triple from Travis Jankowski.
And while Marchan has been performing well offensively, that is only a bonus for the Phillies. Marchan is not the offensive catcher that J.T. Realmuto is and Phillies fans should not get their hopes up that he is. Marchan is, however, well-respected for his pitch-framing skills and his ability to call a game.
Overall, Marchan has done really well calling the games so far. While catching for Ranger Suarez and Kyle Gibson on Saturday and Sunday, Marchan appeared to be on the same page with his pitchers all night. While there were some struggles on Monday night as he and Zack Wheeler were not on the same page, that was the first inkling of any trouble for the young catcher.
So far, Marchan has been a resounding success for the Phillies since rejoining them on Friday. As we enter September and rosters expand, expect to see a lot more of Marchan as the Phillies attempt to stay in the playoff race. Moving forward, I think it’s time to mark down Marchan as the Phillies’ backup catcher for 2022.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire